“Patience is bitter, but it’s fruit is sweet.”
Twenty-two years after graduation, at age 40, I was just about ready to give up on the idea of being in a high school play, but as the great Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, never, never give up!”
The dream lived on.
When my daughter was cast in her school’s production of Bye Bye Birdie, I remarked to some of her friends that I’d like to play the part of Ed Sullivan. After all, I’d been preparing for the role most of my life.
I grew up watching Ed Sullivan. If you were looking for me on Sunday night, chances are pretty good you would find me in front of the television watching his show. Dancers, puppets, bears, dogs, jugglers, comics, actors, singers, and sports heroes; Ed Sullivan had them all. Any performer knew they had made it if they landed a guest appearance on his show.
What was the secret of his appeal?
Most folks say he made it look like anyone could do his job.
He often made mistakes, fumbled names and tripped over announcements. He was a happy man, but had a stiff cardboard appearance that made him look like he was wearing his jacket with the coat hanger still inside. He was an entertainer everyone could enjoy and his show was safe for the whole family. A lot of people made an attempt at imitating him. Some professionals even made a living at it, I got pretty good at being Ed Sullivan.
“Now right here on our stage…a really big shoe! (show always sounded like shoe when Ed said it.)
The Upper Arlington high school production of Bye Bye Birdie went into rehearsal without me. I went back to minding my own business and occasionally acted like Ed for my own amusement.
As a wise man said long ago, “Be careful what you ask for. You might get it.”
I wouldn’t say they were desperate, but opening night was only a week away and they still hadn’t cast the role of Ed Sullivan. The kids didn’t forget me. They told the director about my aspiration. A short time later, opportunity dialed my phone number and I was on my way. The play called for Ed to deliver a few short lines of introduction. This would take place off stage, while some scenery was moved. In other words, the audience would never see Ed, only hear him.
The director recited over the phone what lines were required and I copied them down. Next, I moved into the recording studio. To the average pair of eyes, it may have looked like a cheap recorder in a bathroom, but to me, it was Broadway. After a couple of rehearsals, I cued the record button. A couple of nights later, by way of tape recorder, I was performing in the play.
Now let me borrow a line from Robert Schuller: “God’s delays are not God’s denials.”
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